I advocate for many different issues, but one of my priorities now is to advocate for other business owners to get involved in public advocacy. There’s a resistance from business owners to engage in politics. When you’re a small fish in a big pond with lots of other small fish, you don’t want to stir the waters at the expense of not getting fed.
In other words, small business owners don’t want to risk losing potential clients by publicly advocating for an issue. I get it, I’m a small business owner too. But when it comes down to it, your best clients are going to be the ones that share the same values as you.
If you’re still feeling reluctant to involve yourself in politics, I’ve got some important info to share with you. Whether you’re interested in politics or not as a civilian, if you’re a business owner your interest or disinterest is irrelevant. You have to engage.
Even if you’re a solopreneur like me and have no employees to worry about, there are a number of policy issues that directly affect you and your business.
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
1. Health Care
Oh boy, what a mess.
With the Trump administration gutting the Affordable Care Act, the penalty for not having health insurance will disappear by next year. This year the IRS is still requiring self-insured employers and insurers to report individuals covered by their plan or face penalties.
The future of healthcare in the US is very unclear. It will undoubtedly be a turbulent several years ahead as the Trump administration continues to gut ACA. That’s why some states have begun to take matters into their own hands and change healthcare policy.
It’s important for you to stay up on the healthcare debate in both your state and federally because nobody really knows WTF is going to happen.
I’m lucky enough to still have a year left of coverage on my mother’s employer’s plan. But next year when I turn 26, I’ll have some difficult decisions to make about what I will do for healthcare.
2. Tax Reform
At the very end of 2017, Republicans in Congress practically passed a massive tax overhaul (the biggest in decades) that left businesses with almost no time to assess what the legislation means for them in 2018 since many of the provisions take effect this year.
The main changes are that the corporate tax rate was reduced to 21% and the business income for pass-through entities will be deducted up to 20%. This reform mostly benefits big business, but some small businesses might be interested in changing their structure take advantage of this tax reform.
I, personally, and regardless of my politics, won’t do anything until we see how this plays out.
3. Pay Equity
So, as of March 2018, some controversial revisions to the EEO-1 form were scheduled to take effect. Long story short, these changes ended up not happening. This form basically collects data on wages based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc. and the federal government is meant to use that data to make determinations about future budgets.
However, the Trump administration does not tend to place priority on fixing gender pay gaps. So federal legislation will likely continue to stall. But some states are looking to address these pay gaps by proposing limits or bans on the collection and use of salary information in the hiring process.
If you’re an advocate for women and men getting equal pay (and you absolutely should be), tune into your state’s and your city’s efforts to close the pay gap because nothing is likely to change on the federal level any time soon.
4. Minimum Wage
This has been a hot issue for a while now.
Attempts by the Obama administration to increase federal minimum wage were blocked by Congress and the Trump administration is very against raising the minimum wage. Many states responded to stifled federal efforts to raise the minimum wage by, again, taking matters into their own hands.
Last year 20 states increased their minimum wage. But this year we are seeing some pushback to those increases from some red states. Missouri, for example, elected a Republican governor into office who prevented St. Louis from raising our minimum wage from $7.70 to $10.
You’ve got to pay close attention to both your city and state minimum wage laws. Our governor in Missouri is a tricky son of a bitch who found a way to keep specific cities in the state from trying to raise their own minimum wage. (Loopholes, man).
I hope if you do have employees that you are paying them much better than $7.70 an hour and that you’re advocating for a higher minimum wage overall. Some very simple math reveals that $7.70 is an insultingly low number to expect someone to live on. Don’t be a penny pincher at the expense of your employees.
5. Overtime Pay
Overtime regulations are still kind of up in the air since the federal courts invalidated the Obama administration’s overtime laws in 2017. At present, you must comply with existing federal overtime regulations as well as any stipulations made by your state and city.
Knowing the Trump administration and their priorities, federal overtime laws are likely to be changed soon. They could change as early as next year so stay tuned.
6. Cyber Security/Privacy
The more business conducted on the internet, the more complicated this issue will become. And boy, businesses sure are having a hard time keeping private information secure.
There have been a lot of retailer data breaches in the past year. You’ve probably heard of the major ones— Saks, Forever 21, Panera, Whole Foods, Gamestop, Sonic. Most of these breaches were caused by vulnerabilities in payment systems which were taken advantage of by hackers.
Businesses are obligated to protect sensitive information or else they can face litigation risks as well as penalties from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Board.
Again, states are beginning to enact cybersecurity standards which could lead to a national standardization of cybersecurity.
As a small business owner, you need to be very protective of any client information you store digitally and be sure that your business is compliant with any laws your state enacts around cybersecurity.
7. Paid Leave Laws
Over 40 states and local municipalities have passed paid sick leave laws that apply to private employers. Paid leave laws can be complicated, particularly when it comes to family leave. But ya know what? It’s the 21st century and the US is the only developed country that doesn’t require its employers to provide paid sick leave for their employees.
What you as a small business owner should be watching is the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. This proposal in Congress could create federal laws that regulate paid leave and flexible work schedules.
This could have a huge impact on you. Stay tuned for happenings with this bill.
8. Retirement Plans by the City & State
Because our Social Security system will not be able to support the large number of Baby Boomer retirees leaving the workforce and because so many workers don’t have enough saved for retirement as it is, we again must look to the individual states to take care of us.
As of now, 9 states have enacted state-sponsored retirement savings programs.
This issue is very pertinent to you as a business owner because most small businesses can’t offer a retirement plan to their employees which means you have to rely on your individual state’s decision to be able to retire.
This issue, like healthcare, is basically a crisis. If you’re going to prioritize the issues you advocate for, make sure this one is high up on your list along with healthcare. Most Americans do not have a financially secure future.
9. Payment Evolution
The “gig economy”— temporary or flexible jobs performed by freelancers —is pushing faster payment methods. You’re probably aware of same-day automated clearinghouse (ACH) payments. As of March 2018, financial institutions are now required to meet a strict 5 PM local deadline for same-day ACH funds availability.
We may begin to see even faster payment solutions this year. And that’s always good news when you run a small business because who doesn’t love getting paid faster?
As a business owner, you should work with your bank to ensure you’re keeping up with the fastest payment technology. Remember that technology evolves much faster than our government can implement, standardize, and regulate. Always advocate for policy around technology that improves our businesses and livelihoods!
Business owners have to engage in politics whether we want to or not. All of these issues affect you as a business owner. And really, these issues are the bare minimum when it comes to political awareness. There are far more social issues that affect businesses less directly.
Make sure you educate yourself by doing due research on the issues. The more informed you are, the better you can advocate for your business’s needs.